In a new study, researchers advise reducing the consumption of added sugars to approximately six teaspoons a day and limiting sugar-sweetened beverages to less than one serving per week. This recommendation follows the World Health Organization’s (WHO) earlier guideline to reduce added sugar consumption to less than 10% of total daily energy intake, based on evidence linking excessive sugar intake to negative health effects.
The research review, published in the BMJ, analyzed a series of studies to provide a comprehensive summary of the research on this topic. The analysis included 73 research reviews encompassing 8,601 articles, which covered 83 health outcomes for adults and children. The quality of the articles was assessed, and the evidence for each outcome was graded as high, moderate, low, or very low quality.
The study revealed significant harmful associations between sugar consumption and 18 metabolic outcomes, such as diabetes, gout, and obesity. Additionally, it found harmful links between sugar consumption and 10 heart health outcomes, including high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke, as well as seven cancer outcomes, including breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. The researchers also discovered associations between sugar consumption and 10 other outcomes, such as asthma, tooth decay, depression, and death.
Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was significantly associated with increased body weight when comparing the highest and lowest consumption levels. The scientists did not find any reliable evidence showing beneficial links between dietary sugar consumption and any health outcome. While evidence for a link between dietary sugar consumption and cancer remains limited, the researchers emphasized the need for further investigation.
The new findings, combined with WHO, World Cancer Research Fund, and American Institute for Cancer Research guidance, suggest reducing the consumption of added sugars to below 25g per day.
“Reducing the consumption of free sugars or added sugars to below 25g/day (approximately 6 teaspoons/day) and limiting the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to less than one serving/week (approximately 200–355mL/week) are recommended to reduce the adverse effect of sugars on health,” the researchers wrote.
Matt Lambert, health information and promotion manager at the World Cancer Research Fund, said: “Having a healthy, balanced diet means limiting how much sugar we eat, and in particular, added sugar. One of our Cancer Prevention Recommendations is to limit sugar-sweetened drinks. Diets that are high in added sugar can lead to weight gain. Our research shows that living with overweight or obesity can increase the risk of at least 12 different cancers, including bowel and breast cancer.
“To support people in becoming healthier, we will be launching a free online 8-week healthy living program, called Activ8. It helps people make healthy changes to their diets and beverage choices, offering practical tips to cut down on sugar-sweetened drinks. The plan also encourages participants to be more active in their daily lives.”
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